By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BEIJING (Worthy News) – Chinese authorities closed a house church and its Christian school in Shanxi province after detaining church members amid a crackdown on unauthorized worship in China, Christians confirmed late Thursday.
The Linfen Covenant House Church was shut down along with its Asilan School in Shanxi’s city of Linfen, said Christians familiar with the situation.
Earlier, the Linfen City Yaodu District Bureau of Civil Affairs announced the closures on its website, Worthy News learned.
The local authority stressed that “the church and school were not registered with the government, and thus all their activities were considered illegal,” according to translated remarks.
Devoted Chinese Christians are often unwilling or unable to register with authorities for saying they put Christ above the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The Linfen Covenant House Church’s latest legal troubles began after police raided its family camp in August, suggested advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC). “Two preachers from the church were arrested for alleged fraud and, more recently, two other church workers were suddenly detained without notice,” VOMC told Worthy News.
VOMC, which closely follows the case, said that lawyers met with two of the detained church workers, Wang Qiang and Wu Tingting, late last month. “While Wang has undergone torture from the authorities in their attempt to extract a confession, the Christian refused to relent. The next day, as the city was put under another COVID lockdown, the representing lawyers were prohibited from conducting any further meetings with the two believers.”
Despite “ongoing persecution, the testimony expressed by a member of the church is that of joy,” VOMC noticed.
During a recent raid, a police officer asked her, ‘When did you start loving the Lord passionately?’ VOMC recalled. She reportedly answered: “I only began to love the Lord passionately after you arrested me. When the shackles wore out my feet, I realized a little bit how much Christ had paid for me” at the cross where He died for the sins of the world before rising from death.
VOMC said the “testimonies of joy and gratitude” came despite “increased crackdowns mandated by the Chinese Communist Party.”
The advocacy group asked believers to pray for the church and other Christians in a similar situation.
Several sources say a crackdown on unregistered worship increased under President Xi Jinping, who wants to eliminate perceived threats to China’s Communist system, including from devoted minority Christians.
Several thousand churches had their crosses removed in recent years. Additionally, congregations were raided, and Christians were detained across the country.
Yet rallies over draconian zero-COVID measures in several cities turned into the largest anti-government protests in decades, potentially undermining Xi’s power base.